According to my mother, the moment I was born, my mother’s side of the family looked at me and said I looked more Caucasian. Then my father’s side of the family looked at me for the first time and stated I looked more Asian. Despite their opposite perceptions, both are correct because I very well was born with two races.
Growing up, I did not “feel” very different even though I grew up in an area where no one like myself existed. My dad revealed to me during my young adult life that he actually had strong hesitations about having children because he knew that would mean I would be mixed and he feared that I would be bullied or as he words it, “tormented” during my childhood and essentially suffer from some sort of racial identity crisis. Luckily, I never had to experience either of his concerns but instead, I grew up feeling like I won the genetic jackpot where I reap the benefits of both worlds combined into one and that I get a rare opportunity to live my existence with not one but two races. Sounds like a great deal if you ask me (thanks mom and dad). I was also raised to believe that the more unique you are, the more valuable you are. Therefore, my perception of self growing up was always positive because I believed being different = being cool.
At the same time, growing up mixed can have its challenges as I find the few biracial people I have ever encountered or read about has had their very own individualized experiences growing up with a multiracial background that not everyone can relate to. Although personal life occurrences can differ from person to person and the racial mix can vary, I do know that every multiracial individual can relate to these exact experiences:
- When you are given an important document and asked to check off the box for your race and “cultural enigma” isn’t an option, what box does a person with more than one race actually check off? When I am given the option to check off more than one, then that is an easy answer: I check off both Asian and Caucasian. When I am asked to only check off one, then I check off, “Other” because at the end of the day, I consider myself “other” because I do not identify with one race over the other as I was born with two. When “other” is NOT an option, then I am left quite unsure myself of the “correct” answer. (*Pondering to self* Hmm, why isn’t there a “None of the above” for this question since I do not know how I am supposed to only choose one?) Thankfully it is more widely accepted that there can be more than one answer checked off and I cannot think of the last time that this happened but there have been instances where I encountered “other” was NOT an option nor did I have the option to choose more than one.
- The most commonly asked question upon meeting me as I am sure most mixed people like myself can relate to is this, “What are you?” This can be translated in other forms such as, “Where are you from?” “What is your ethnicity?” “Where were you born?” Many people who are biracial I find actually get offended by this question. Personally, the majority of the time I find this to be a compliment because the curiosity stems from their admiration of my mixed physicality, not asked in a way to offend me. Some people seem to think that asking can appear offensive but I do not get offended because A) I like learning about other cultures so I find it interesting to inquire about another person’s cultural identity. I have no problem asking someone this very same question, no matter what someone looks like, I simply am just as curious. B) I do not understand how asking someone who appears to be more diverse looking than someone else is perceived as offensive all of a sudden. C) Personally, I have always embraced that I was born with two races so I am proud to share my cultural background with anyone who asks.
- People seem to like to categorize people as one race versus another and for whatever reason do not accept that an individual can be both. As exemplified at my birth, each race perceived me to NOT look like their own race. Growing up and even to this day, I actually find this to be rather strange how much perception can range quite dramatically depending on the race of the individual. Meaning that my race is solely determined by my physical appearance and based on what I most look like from the eyes of the beholder. If I appear to be more Caucasian to someone, then I am labeled a white girl or if I look more Asian to someone else, I am only seen as an Asian girl. Someone who is Caucasian may comment, “Oh because you are Asian, you must [fill in the Asian stereotype of your choice].” Someone who is Asian might say to me, “You are not really Asian because you are half white.” I have even encountered Asian makeup clients specifically ask me, “Do you have experience doing makeup on Asian women?” The best reply I can offer is, “Why yes, I am half Asian so I sure can.” 😉 This is why I like to point out to people that I am both Asian and Caucasian and depending on the context, I have no problem politely correcting someone that the correct term for describing me is biracial (not “Asian girl” or “white girl”) whenever anyone tries to put me in a box and label me as only one single race. Why can’t others acknowledge that is it possible for an individual to have a multiracial background and why am I expected to only associate with one side?
No matter what your racial identity is, I think it is important to be proud of who you are while at the same time, race is not everything. Being born biracial, I equally identify with both sides of me and will continue to embrace my cultural heritage with great pride and encourage everyone to do the same. [On a final note, in case you are now wondering, I am specifically Chinese, Maltese, German, and Irish].